I received an invitation from God recently, and it went like this: Enter and center.
At the time, I was anticipating a retreat in which I would serve as a spiritual director. As I prayed, it was those two little words that came to mind along with a parable Jesus told. The Parable of the Great Dinner recorded for us in Luke 14:15-24.
In this story, a feast was being prepared, and the invitations went out to many. The time arrived, but the people did not. Everything was ready, but no one came.
“They all alike began to make excuses,” Jesus said as he told the story.
“Please accept my regrets,” said one guest after another as they went off to tend those things that drew them away.
When this parable and the words “enter” and “center” came to mind, the weeklong retreat was just days away.
Invitations had gone out. People had responded. The feast was being readied. What next?
We would enter by showing up daily to both the prepared prayer practices and the spiritual direction sessions. But entering would not be enough. For us to truly take part in the feast, we would also need to center. To actually be where we were. A tall order and a rare occurrence these days.
We’re told we can’t be in more than one place at a time, but I beg to differ. We are distracted and divided, pulled into dozens of places and not fully present to any of them.
This serves none of us well. It is like bringing our cell phones to the dinner table with us. We are physically present, yet pulled away as we tend to tasks and needs. We may eat, but we don’t taste, and we certainly don’t savor. We may talk, but we’re not listening.
To be fully present to what and who is before us, we need to check our phones at the door.
I imagine my Host (God) standing at the entrance and ushering me into this feast of a retreat with a warm welcome and an offering of two items: a basket and a bowl. The basket is my place of relinquishment, the bowl my place of receiving.
The basket is to be the holding place for my cell phone (the symbol of all that calls my name, vies for my attention or pulls me out of and away from the proverbial table). Can I trust the Host to keep these cares, cries and crises for me? These attachments and addictions, what-if’s and worries? How will it feel to let go of them even for a short time?
The bowl is for my feasting. It is my place of partaking. It is empty, but not for long.
The Host leads me to a table laden with food. With a sweeping gesture of his hand, he whispers in my ear, “Take, eat, this is for you.” For me? Tears make a surprise appearance as I realize just how hungry I am. Just how long it’s been.
So much calls me out and away. God invites me in.
So much calls us out and away. God invites us in.
Enter and center, my children, my bride, my friends. The feast is prepared for you.
I went to my kitchen and took a soup bowl off the shelf. I climbed onto a rickety stool and reached for a basket above the cabinets. I took them both to the room where I would engage the retreat. Before each session, I put my cell phone in the basket and the bowl on my lap, reminding me to enter and center. To show up and be there. To figuratively drink it all in.
The retreat is over, but the reminder remains. I hear the invitation throughout my days. Yes, in my early morning times with God. But also, when I sit down to write. When I attend a meeting. When I talk with my husband, my son, my mother or friend. When I show up to my creative practices, my studies, my work, my rest.
Those two little words ring in my ears: enter and center, dear daughter. Relinquish and receive. Show up and savor.
This precious life is a feast laid out, and we are invited. Our presence has been requested. God will hold the calls and concerns. We don’t need to answer them right now. No alerts or alarms, just entering and centering, and feasting till we want no more.